Weakest Real GDP Growth Since When?

Via Kevin Drum comes the attempt by Howard Schneider and Neil Irwin to put into perspective the bad news from BEA. The WaPo writers claim:

The U.S. economy grew — but just barely — over the first three months of the year, confirming impressions of sluggish growth but leaving open whether the country has actually slipped into recession. In its latest report on gross domestic product, the Bureau of Economic Analysis reported today that the economy grew 0.6 percent over the first quarter of the year — the same rate as in the prior three months and the weakest growth since 2002.

Kevin replies:

I’m surprised. I would have guessed lower than that, so in some weird sense I suppose this counts as good news.

Kevin’s instincts are about right. Let’s consult table 1.1.1 from BEA’s NIPA tables to check on real GDP growth by quarter from 2001 to 2003. Real GDP growth (annualized) was only 0.2% for 2002QIV but that was preceded by a 2.4% figure for 2002QIII and followed by a 1.2% figure for 2003 QI. So the last six months were worse than even the six months from 2002IV to 2003QI. One has to go back to 2001 to see a two-quarter period than was lower than the last two quarters.